A Very Strong Beginning for the Novice License
1951. In the new licensing system put into place on July 1, 1951, there were: Novice, Technician, Conditional, General, and Amateur Extra Class licenses. This was the first introduction of the Novice. The Novices license was originally introduced a one-year, non-renewable license. One could only hold the Novice once. That is, if one had a Novice and did not upgrade before expiration, one was not allowed to get another Novice. The Novice was a learner’s permit in an upward or outward system designed to compel upgrading.
The Novice tests were originally given by FCC inspectors. An applicant had to pass a 5 words per minute Morse code receiving and sending test, Element 1A. The receiving test consisted of 5 minutes of Morse code. To pass, an applicant had to perfectly copy at least 1 minute of the five minutes. That is, no mistakes were allowed in a one minute period. The sending test was the same. Typically, the examiner would stop and pass the applicant once they sent 1 minute perfectly. The written test, Element 2, consisted of 20 questions.
As a learner’s permit, Novices were strictly limited as to reduce the interference and trouble they could cause. Novices were limited to 75 watts and had to be crystal controlled. They had limited code privileges 3.700 to 3.750mc and for a brief time 26.960 to 27.230mc. They had phone privileges on 2 meters. Since Novices were “rock bound” they had to their receivers up or down from their transmitting frequency to listen for other Novices who may not have the same frequency crystal.
Novices were issued a distinctive 2x3 call sign, WN followed by the call district number and three letters. W is a designation for radio amateurs in the U.S. “N” stood for Novice. A typical Novice call was WN6###. When the Novice upgraded, the new higher license usually had a call sign in which N was dropped, and a “A” or “B” was substituted, i.e. WA6###.
Novices in the U.S. territories did not have N call signs. The territories used K prefixes. Novices were given a W prefix. When they upgraded, the W was converted to a K.
1952. 40 meters became available for amateur use.
Early-1953. Novices got a small sub-band on 40 meters. About this time, the FCC started reissuing calls. Previous to this point, call signs were originally issued; that is no one had the call previously.
1953. ARRL publishes its first Novice license manual. The actual examination questions and answers were not published. ARRL wrote sample questions.
1954. Due to overwhelming popularity, the Novice and Technicians license were given by mail through proctors only. The term “Volunteer Examiner” (VE) was not in use until 1983. The proctor was a ham with a General or higher license and was 18 or more years old.
Mid-1950s. There was already a call sign shortage in the second and sixth call district. By the mid-w1950s the shortage reach the rest of the U.S. mainland. FCC started to issue K call signs on the U.S. mainland. Novices were issued KN call signs.
1956. The population of hams in the U.S. is over 140,000.
1958 Novice Frequency Privileges:
- 3.7 to 3.75mc CW.
- 7.15 to 7.2mc, CW.
- 21.1 to 21.145mc, CW.
- 144-148mc, CW and phone.
There were some complaints from some Generals, Advanced and Amateur Extras that Novices should not be allowed on the new 15 meter band.
Late-1950s to Early-1960s. K prefix call signs were running out. FCC started issuing WA prefix call signs. Counterpart call signs were discontinued.
1958. Novices were issued 2x3 call signs, WV# call signs. WN call signs had been exhausted in the second and sixth call districts.
1958, September. FCC starts Citizen’s Band Radio, Class D, using AM phone. 11M ham band is given to CBers.
There were about 160,000 hams in the U.S. 60,000 of them were members of the American Radio Relay League.
With high sunspot activity, Novices were earning the Worked All Continents (WAC), Worked All States (WAS) and even the DXCC award.